Review: Paper Heart
PLOT: In this mockumentary, actress/comedian Charlyne Yi tours the country to find out if Love exists and, if so, why she has never felt it. Her journey leads her to actor Michael Cera, who may hold the answer for her.
REVIEW: “Has anyone been in love?”
With that question in mind, Charlyne Yi (the giggly couch-dwelling stoner from KNOCKED UP) takes to the road to find out the answer(s). If there are any.
Her goal: to trot the globe and interview anyone that has experienced Love, or at least thinks they have. The trek takes the crew to Nashville, where a divorcee recounts how love saved his life (something about a downstream and a specter?); Las Vegas, where an Elvis imitator and the proprietors of the Little Wedding Chapel recount cherished memories; Oklahoma City, where Yi takes tips from a bearded lug named “Jester”; and, in the movie’s funniest scene, an Atlanta playground, where--go figure--children seem to have the right idea on the topic (“Take somebody to Applebee‘s and get them hot wings!”).
There are also professors, musicians, high school sweethearts, and a romance novelist. But no one seems to be saying anything of note to Yi. Until she meets an equally awkward fella named Michael Cera, played by, eh, Michael Cera, who validates our assumption that every character he’s played up to this point has been self-imitation.
“But hey, wait, I thought they already were an item! How can they just now meet?” They are, and they didn’t meet on camera. If you didn’t know, you’re in with a crowded bunch. The person I attended the screening with had no idea that Yi and Cera were a real-life couple and, as a result, enjoyed PAPER HEART much more than I could.
And so Charlyne Yi and the Quest for Love is party spoiled for those aware of Yi and Cera‘s off-screen romance. The movie--if you prefer Yi’s label--is a “hybrid documentary,” blending narrative and documentary (see: Mockumentary, but not under Guest, whose films let the entire audience in on the gag).
Throughout much of PAPER HEART, we bare witness to staged recreations of the blossoming romance between the Second Couple of the Apatow Factory (the first being Apatow himself and his wife Leslie Mann, who would have made good interview subjects). The lenses capture their first date (hot dogs and fries, naturally), their first homemade dinner (an ordered pizza), and their first kiss, which Yi snickers through.
As the camera crew becomes more intrusive and director Nicholas Jasenovec starts contriving the plot (even at one point asking the production company to fund a trip to Paris), the fact that PAPER HEART is more narrative than documentary becomes more apparent (I estimate probably close to 85% is planned), and the intended effect is lost.
Yi and Cera are actors who get Love and are in It, and so the entire movie plays more like a charade than what it set out to be: a discovery of Love for someone who hasn‘t staged a stuffed animal wedding ceremony since her diaper days.
Now that you know “the secret,” will the movie be ruined? Of course not--You’ll still be laughing at just how damned graceless and weird the leads are. The lightning bolt you’ve heard so much about just won’t strike.